Chapter Nine

Reciting behind the Imam

The hadith I have used is by no means to go against the great Imams i.e. Imam Malik, Imam Shafi’i and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal. There method of Salaah is also correct as it is according to the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). The hadith quoted are to show that the Fatwas of Imam Abu Hanifa are according to the Sunnah as the Ghayr Muqalids object to this.

Firstly, let us mention the verse of the Qur’an in this regard.

“And when the Qur’aan is recited, hear it patiently and be silent so that you may have mercy.” 1

Mujahid reports: “This verse was revealed regarding some Companions of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) reciting behind the Imaam.”2 The Qur’aan takes priority over Hadith, hence this verse is sufficient to prove that when the Imam is reciting the followers should remain silent.

Ibn Kathir writes: Imam Ahmad and Imam Abu Hanifa say there should be no recitation behind the Imam during any Salaah. This is more accurate because Imam Shafi has one opinion which is similar to this.3

Note: The hadith numbers before the hadith indicate the different chains of narrations, hence, each chain will count as a separate hadith.

Hadith 1

Ubadah ibn Samit reported: We were behind the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) at the dawn prayer, and he recited (the passage), but the recitation became difficult for him. Then when he finished, he said, perhaps you recite behind your Imam? We replied: yes, it is so, Messenger of Allah.4

Hadith 2 -4

Imran bin Hussain reported: The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) led (us) in the noon prayer, and a man came and recited behind him “Glorify the name of your Lord, the Highest.”5 When he finished (the prayer), he said, which of you recited? They said: A man (recited). He said: I knew that someone of you confused me in it. (Reciting the Qur’an).6

Hadith 5

Abu Hurayrah narrated, “The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) informed, ‘The Imaam has been appointed to be followed. Thus, when he says the takbeer, you also say it, when he recites, remain silent and when he says, ‘Sami Allahu Liman Hamida’ say, ‘Rabbana Lakal Hamd.” 7

Hadith 6 – 8

Jabir narrates, “Whoever has an Imaam then his Imaam’s recitation is (sufficient) for him.”8

Hadith 9 – 11

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) informed, “Whoever prays behind the Imaam, the recitation of the Imaam is recitation for him (meaning it is sufficient for him).”9

Hadith 12

‘Abdullah ibn Shaddad relates that, “The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) lead the ‘Asr Salaah. A person began reading behind him so another person close to him gave him a nudge. When he finished the Salaah, he asked, ‘Why did you nudge me?’ The second person replied, ‘the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) was in front of you therefore I did not approve of you reciting behind the Imaam.’ The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) hear this and said, ‘Whoever has an Imaam, the recitation of the Imaam is enough for him.”10

Hadith 13 – 18

Abu Hurayrah narrated, “The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) turned around after completing Salaah in which he had recited aloud. He asked, “Did anyone read along with me just now.” A person replied, “Yes, O Prophet of Allah.” The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “I was wondering what the matter with me was that I am having to struggle in (reciting the) Qur’an.” When the people heard that from him they discontinued reading with the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace).11

Hadith 19

Ataa ibn Yasaar inquired from Zaid ibn Thabit regarding recitation with the Imaam. He answered, “There is no recitation with the Imaam.”12

Hadith 20 – 21

Ubaydullah ibn Muqsim narrates that he asked ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, Zaid ibn Thabit and Jabir ibn ‘Abdillah (regarding this issue). They told him that in no Salaah should anyone perform recitation behind the Imam.13

Hadith 22 – 23 Alqamah relates that ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud said, “If only the mouth of the person reading behind the Imaam would be filled with soil (rubble).”14

Hadith 24 – 25

Ibn Abbas informs that the recitation of the Imaam is sufficient for you whether he recites silently or loudly.15

Hadith 26 – 27

Musa ibn Aqabah informed that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), ‘Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman would prohibit reciting behind the Imaam.16

Hadith 28 – 29

Musa ibn Sa’ad ibn Zaid ibn Thabit narrates from his grandfather that he said, “Whoever recites behind the Imaam there is no Salaah for him.”17

Hadith 30-33

Abu Musa Ashari reported that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) taught us how to perform Salaah, and said “First straighten the rows, then one person should become Imam, then follow him, when he says takbir say takbir and when he recites, remain quiet.” 18

Hadith 34

Abu Nasr, asked Imam Muslim if the Hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah in which it says “…when the Imam recites, stay quiet…” is authentic. I (Imam Muslim) said “Yes, it is authentic.” 19

Hadith 35 Zaid bin Thabit was asked if a person should recite behind the Imam, he in reply said “Behind the Imam there is no Qiraat” 20

There are many more statements of the companions and scholars, however, I think this is sufficient, just to finish this section let me quote a fatwa of one of the Salafi scholars. Ibn Taymiyah writes in his fatwa, ‘The recitation of the Imaam is sufficient for the followers: The consensus of the companions and the Tabi’een prove it. The ahadith providing it are narrated Musnadan as well as Mursalan. The fatwa of the Tabi’een were also that the recitation is sufficient, and the greatest thing is that it is in complete accordance with the Qur’an and the Sunnah.”21 Imam Aazam Abu Hanifa took all ahadith into consideration and also the practises of the companions to decide that raising the hands to the ears is a Sunnah.

Common Sense

  1. In a typical everyday situation a group of people intending to submit a request or an appeal to a prime minister or president, etc. would not all do so individually but they would instead designate an individual as their representative or ambassador. He would undertake to fulfil all the obligations and required formalities. In return the group would not interfere with his actions as long as he follows the correct procedures. If some do-gooder was to interfere he would be frowned upon and maybe even regarded as ignorant and disrespectful. The same is the situation of the Imaam who beseeches the Lord on behalf of his followers in the court of Allah (The Exalted). They remain silent and listen to him. yes, once he completes his invocation and supplication, they endorse it by saying Aameen just as the aforementioned group would do so with their petitions and signatures, etc.
  2. The recitation which one is obliged to perform in Salaah is broken into two, the first being Surah Fatiha and the second being the chapters or verses one is required to recite following Surah Fatiha. As you know, it has been mentioned that none of the scholars say, “The followers are obliged to recite the verses of the second category,” instead they state that, “The Imaam’s recitation is enough and sufficient for them.” Why then should some scholars say the Surah Fatiha, meaning category one is necessary for the follower to recite while the second one is not? Just as the recitation by the Imaam, of the second category is sufficient for the follower according to consensus category one, meaning Surah Fatiha should also hold the same command and the Imaam’s recitation should be sufficient
  3. If a person who, being delayed for some reason, arrives and finds the Imaam in ruku, the procedure he has to follow in order to join congregation is that he will first say the takbeer, remain standing for a short while, if even for a second, then join the Imaam in ruku. This cycle (rakah) of his will be understood to be acquired. He will not have to perform an extra rakah at the end to make up for this one. The Scholar will agree that if he missed the ruku this rakah of his would be classified as a missed one which he would have to complete at the end. However, no scholar’s opinions of the persons rakah not being accepted because he failed to read Surah Fatiha. This proves that Fatiha is not Fardh for the follower whereas the takbeer, Qiyam and ruku are. It also proves that the Imaam’s recitation is sufficient for him.
  4. If the Imaam makes a mistake in Salaah, all the followers will perform the prostration for mistake (Sajda-e-Sahw), the followers will also perform it, although it may be in the midst of a sirri prayer in which they do not even hear him recite. Likewise, if a single sutrah of the Imaam can be sufficient for the whole congregation, so why then should the Imaam’s recitation not be sufficient for them all as well? Hafidh Ibn Kathir writes: The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: The Imam’s recitation is enough for the followers.22

Questions and Answer

Question: In Bukhari it states, the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: The Salaah of the person who does not recite AlFatiha, is not accepted.

Answer: It does not specify behind the Imam, hence other ahadith will be taken into consideration, this is the job of the hadith Masters. Imam Tirmidhi writes: Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal said that instruction from the Hadith that states, “…Salaah is not accepted if Surah Al-Fatiha is not read…” is for that person who is reading alone. 23

Rather than reciting this in isolation, when we read other sources of Islamic Law, we can establish that the meaning of this Hadith is that it is essential to recite Al-Fatiha when praying Salaah alone. Some people have also established from the above Hadith that it implies that the recitation of al-Fatiha in every Rakah is fard compulsory. It is also worth mentioning that this Hadith is established from a single narration, so an action cannot be proved to be fard from such type of narration. There is proof from Qur’an and Sunnah which supports the view that if someone reads any part of the Qur’an in the Salaah, the Salaah will be accepted.

Imam Darral Qutini writes: The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that whoever joins the Salaah with the Imam in ruku (before the Imam stands straight), that ruku will not have to be repeated. 24

If the recitation of Surat al Fatiha was fard, the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) would have told the man to recite al-Fatiha first and then to recite any other part of the Qur’an which was easy for him. Also, the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) would not have said that the ruku of the person, who joins the Imam while the Imam is in rukoo, does not have to be repeated. In such a case Al-Fatiha is missed. If Al-Fatiha was fard, the person joining the Salaah at rukoo would have had to repeat his Salaah– simply because a fard was missing.

Allama Sa’eedi writes: The meaning of the above debated Hadith is similar to the following ahadith: The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that “Whoever lives close to the mosque and does not pray in the mosque his Salaah is not accepted.” Another Hadith, which states that if a person makes wudu and does not recite Bismillah, the wudu is invalid. Another Hadith stating that a person is not Muslim if his neighbour sleeps in a hungry state. Another Hadith states that if a person does not fulfil their promise then, he is not a Muslim. Of course, the person who doesn’t fulfil their promise is still a Muslim, and in the same way, if someone doesn’t recite Al-Fatiha in salaah, his Salaah is still accepted but without full Excellency. If this wasn’t the case, the Prophet should have said: “The Salaah of the one who does not recite al-Fatiha is false.” 25

Ibn Taymiyyah26 writes: Some scholars say that Al-Fatiha should be recited behind the Imam. The scholars of Hadith say this opinion is weak. Qur’an and authentic Hadith and the opinion of the early Muslims (salaf) is with those scholars who say that Al-Fatiha should not be recited behind the Imam.27

Ibn Kathir writes: Imam Ahmad and Imam Abu Hanifa say there should be no recitation behind the Imam during any Salaah. This is more accurate because Imam Shafi has one opinion which is similar to this.28

Surely, after reading such statements it should suffice to understand which position is in accordance with the Prophets (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) command of “pray as you see me pray.” Imam Muslim writes: Ma’mar reported from Zuhri that the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that the Salaah of the person who does not recite Surah Al-Fatiha and another part of the Qur’an is not accepted. 29

Question: Imam Bukhari narrated a narration from Sufiyan which is about the wujub of only reciting Al-Fatiha and Imam Muslim narrates from Ma’mar a Hadith which says that the person’s prayer is not accepted if they do not recite Surah Al-Fatiha AND another part of the Qur’an. We prefer Sufiyan’s narration over Ma’mar’s because Sufiyan is more reliable.

This objection can be cleared easily by looking at what the books of aljarhu-wat-ta’deel say about the quality of Hadith narrators. Imam Dhahabi and Hafidhh Asqalani write: Imam Yahya bin Mo’een was asked by his students, who had memorized more of Imam Dhahabi’s narrations, as to whom he preferred. He replied: “Imam Ma’mar. “Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal said that Sufiyan heard Ahadith from Imam Zuhri at a young age, so this is why, when he reported Ahadith from Zuhri, he made mistakes in 20 of them. 30

This reference proves that Ma’mar’s narration is more authentic than Sufiyan’s narration.

Question: Imam Muslim writes: Someone asked Abu-Hurairah “What do we do when we are behind the Imam, should we recite Al-Fatiha or not?” He answered, “Recite it in your heart.”

Answer: These words are neither from Allah nor the Prophet but are the words of Abu-Hurairah himself. In Bukhari, Muslim, and other books of Ahadith, there is no such narration, which says that when you are behind the Imam you must recite Al-Fatiha in your heart. There are, however, narrations, which say that when the Imam is reciting Al-Fatiha one should listen to it.

Imam Muslim writes: Abu Hurairah said that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that when the Imam recites, listen and stay quiet. 31 How is it possible that Abu-Hurairah is contradicting his own narrations? The actual meaning of Abu-Hurairah’s words concerning reciting in the heart is to contemplate its meanings. This is the true meaning which does not go against the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

Shawkani32 writes (Imam Qurtubi has also written something similar): The word “Nafsaka (Yourself)” means to think about the meaning. 33 Imam Nawawi writes: Some Maliki scholars have explained AbuHurairah’s words about “reading in the heart”, as to think about the words of Al-Fatiha, because if you read something in the heart it cannot be called recitation because recitation is actually when one reads from the tongue. So, it is only called recitation when the tongue is actually moving. The proof of this is that all the scholars say when a woman is in an impure state she cannot recite with the tongue, but she can think about the meaning in her heart. 34

From the above we can see that Abu-Hurairah’s words do not mean to recite behind the Imam but rather they mean to think about the meaning in the heart.

The Person Performing Salaah Individually Must Recite Surah Fatiha, Not the Muqtadi. ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) was asked: “Must the follower recite behind the Imam?” He replied that the Qiraat of the Imaam is sufficient for the follower. But if he performs Salaah individually, then he must recite Qiraat. It was the practice of ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) also that he would not recite Surah fatiha behind the Imam. 35

Jaabir (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the one who does not recite Sura fatiha even in one rakaat, his salaah is not valid. However, if he is behind an Imam he must not recite Surah fatiha. (This Hadith has been classified as hasan — Tirmizi – ch. on not reciting behind the Imaam). It is on the basis of this Hadith that Imaam Tirmidhi (R.A.) has narrated from Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (R.A.) [who was the teacher of the ustaad of Imaam Bukhari (R.A.)] that the narration “Whoever does not recite surah fatiha his salaah is not complete” refers to one who performs his salaah alone. It does not include the muqtadi (Jami’ Tirmidhi, ibid). In the above Hadith it is very clearly mentioned that the muqtadi must not recite sura fatiha.

Question: The verse quoted earlier on is regarding the Friday Sermon not the Salah of the followers (Muqtadies) as some commentators (Mufasirs) have written, hence to stay silent at the time of the Friday Sermon is necessary but the followers (Muqtadies) in there Salah are not prohibited to reciting Sura Fathia behind the Imam?

Answer: Firstly, this derivation of this Quranic narration is incorrect as the verse referred to was revealed in Makkah-tul-Makarama and it is the verse from Surah al-Arfa & Sura al-Juma, and as it is well known that the Friday sermon & Salaah began after the migration (Hijra) so how can this revelation be regarding the Friday Prayer (Juma) or Sermon. Secondly if that was the case then this verse mentions no restriction on the recitation in the sermon but mentions only about the recitation of the Quran, and finally in the Sermon it is unlawful (Haram) for people to talk but not all the sermon consists of Quranic verses, only part of the sermon consists of verses from the Quran whereas when the Imam is only reciting the Quran then why is it not necessary to remain silent during the all Quranic recitation, don’t you think it is ironically strange that during the Friday sermon it is necessary to remain silent and not whilst the Imam recitation in Salaah.

Question: In the verse (quote the verse) it is addressing the polytheists (Mushriks) of Makkah who at the time when the Prophet of Allah (May Allah blessings be upon him) would be reciting the Quran they would make noise, so the verse is about when the quran is recited do not talk about worldly affairs hence it has nothing to do to with the recitation of surah Fathia?

Answer: This interpretation is incorrect as this verse is addressing the Muslims only as no act of worship is necessary on the polytheists (Mushriks) until they have true faith meaning until they embrace Islam and as listening to the recitation of the Quran is also a form of worship so this does not apply to the disbeliever’s furthermore the verse completes by stating “So that you may be shown mercy” (re-check verse) and mercy is only descends upon the believers.

Question: If listening to the holy Quran is ordained obligatory then how is it that children who are learning the holy Quran in the Islamic educational institutes are allowed to recite aloud when they are learning the Holy Quran, surely if it is obligatory to listen then these children would face immense difficulty as some would recite while others would have to remain silent and listen?

Answer: This is for learning purposes only and it is not classed for recitation purposes at the time and listening of the Quran is ordained obligatory while listen to the Quran but not while learning it. Also, you may be aware that it is not allowed to recite the Quran back to front but this method is also used while teaching children.

Question: in Bukari & Muslim it is stated; “whoever does no recite Sura Fathia in there Salah there Salah does not count” so from here two points emerge firstly that we must recite Sura Fathia in our Salah and secondly if we omit it then our Salah does not count and in the hadith there is also no mention whether alone or in congregation so this means it is obligatory at all times?

Answer: There are three answers to this ruling, firstly Imam Muslim as narrated in his words; “ His Salah does not count who does not recite Sura Fathia and some more” and In Muatta Imam Malik it is stated in these words; “Salah does not count but with Sura Fathia and adding another Sura, so we must point out that if you are following this ruling then You must follow the complete ruling and not pick and choose the Hadith suits you. Secondly this hadith contradicts The Holy Quran and your own argument as it stated in the Holy Quran: (see page 458). Then how is reciting Sura fathia be ordained obligatory, it is also stated in the Quran (see 458) Then how can someone go against the sayings of Allah also previously we have quoted many Hadith regarding the ruling that the Imam recitation is also the followers (Muqtadies) recitation. Finally, the meaning of this Hadith should be taken in a manner so that it does not contradict the Quran & Hadith meaning it should be assumed that this Hadith implies to the Prayer of alone person.

Question: In Tirmidhi, Abada ibn Saamat narrates a hadith which states and ends as follows: The Prophet (May Allah blessings be upon him) asked the companions I believe you recite behind the Imam they replied yes We do, the Messenger of Allah(May Allah blessings be upon him) replied “You must not recite anything with the exception of Sura Fathia”. Does this not prove that reciting Sura Fathia behind the Imam is correct?

Answer: there are numerous answers to this question firstly this contradicts the ruling that by joining the Imam in ruku our Rakat is counted as performed so in reality if recitation of sura fathia behind the Imam was ordained obligatory then how would it be possible for this rakat to be accepted as performed, We must ponder over this fact before making our claims and passing judgement. Secondly this narration by Ubada ibn Saamat in which the Messenger of Allah (May Allah blessings be upon him) has instructed the companions to recite Sura Fathia behind the Imam is although classed as Marfu(……….) however there are many Haduth which contradicts this Hadith, such as narrations by Jabir ibn Abbas, Abduallah Ibn Umar, Zaid ibn Thabit, Abduallah ibn Abbas, Abduallah ibn Umar, Umar and Ali. (may Allah be pleased with them all) Some of these Hadiths have been quoted earlier while others can be found in Tahawai and Sahih al-Bukari for further reference. So here We learn that this hadith which is only narrated by Ubad Ibn Saamat where as there are numerous hadiths contradicting this narration, by the prominent companions mentioned above.

Thirdly this Hadith which has been quoted to support the argument of reciting Sura al-Fathia behind the Imam contradicts the holy Quran, as we learned earlier that the Holy Quran commands us to remain silent while the Quran is being recited, whereas the Hadiths quoted by other prominent Companions supports the Quranic narration hence the contradicting Hadith will not take preference. Fourthly the Hadith quoted states we should recite sura al-Fathia where as there are numerous Hadiths which we have quoted earlier states we should not recite Sura alFathia behind the Imam so here preference will be given to the numerous Hadiths, the reason being that say for instance the verse to prostate to other than Allah can be found in the holy Quran as when the angels were commanded by Allah to prostrate to Adam (May Allah blessings be upon him) and when Shaitan disobeyed he was rejected, now then there are other verses in the Quran which forbids us to prostrate to other than Allah hence they are the verses which will take preference to act upon. Finally we would like to point out the Hadith quoted by Ubada ibn Saamat is not quoted in al-Bukari and Imam Muslim has not forsaken it and although Imam Tirmidi have not forsaken it but neither has he stated it to be Sahih, but has rather stated it to be Hasan and the Imam further adds that Sahih is something else. The note Imam Tirmidi has added to this Hadith states: Abu Isa has stated this Hadith of Ubada ibn Saamat as Hasan also by Zahiri narrated from Mahmood ibn Rabi who narrates the hadith from Ubada ibn Saamat stating that Ubada has said “whom so ever does not recite sura Fathia in there Salah there Salah is not accepted” and it is stated that this narration is the most authentic, here we learn the authentic version does not mention the recitation of sura alFathia behind the Imam. Summarising the answer, I would like to state that it is a fact to ponder over that some people base their argument upon those Hadith which are not regarded as Sahih as it is the case with the above hadith of Ubada ibn Saamat which is even classed as Hasan by Imam Tirmidi. Also, they quote those Hadiths which contradicts the Quran and famous majority of Sahih Hadiths rather they prefer to use Hasan hadiths which may prove contradicting

My question is: “Did the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) say a person who does not recite Fatiha behind the Imam his Salaah will not account?”

Hope you can prove this question and when doing so I do not want to hear the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said one who does not recite Fatiha his Salaah will not count etc. but I want Sahih hadith that clearly (no meanings or interpretations) states the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said Salaah behind Imam… Good luck!

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